Calvert Trust | Supporting Back Up since 1989

Calvert Trust | Supporting Back Up since 1989

In 2006, an accident changed Mary’s life forever. She was left permanently paralysed from the neck down. Life with spinal cord injury is hard but, with the right support, people like Mary can rebuild their confidence and independence.

A few years after her accident, Mary wanted to connect with people in a similar situation. That’s when she decided to get in touch with Back Up.

“I had my 50th birthday and I jokingly said to my family that I would a Back Up course when I came of age,” Mary said. The joke became a reality when Mary applied to go on a multi activity course in the Lake District.

Multi activity courses have been taking place at the Calvert Trust centres in Exmoor and the Lake District since 1989. Calvert Trust instructors are experts at being able to adapt a whole range of outdoor activities, so that people with spinal cord injury can participate as independently as possible.

“When I applied, I was anxious and I had never been away from home on my own since my injury,” Mary said.

During the course, Mary found it helpful to share experiences with volunteers and course participants who also lived with spinal cord injury.

Lake District Calvert Trust have hosted more than 70 courses that have helped over 350 people like Mary to regain their zest for life. “I did things doing the course that I never thought I would do again and it made me more optimistic about the future,” Mary said.

Some of the outdoor activities include indoor climbing, abseiling, kayaking, hand cycling and horse riding. Participants also have the opportunity to practise their wheelchair skills with Back Up volunteers.

“Everything on the course was brilliant and I had a fantastic week,” Mary said. “I got a lot out of the wheelchair skills training and I have been practising some of the tips.”

Mary’s favourite activity was to climb Latrigg, a hill that she had climbed before her injury. “It was exhilarating and I was crying tears of joy,” Mary said. “The view at the top was breath taking.”

The course at Calvert Trust helped Mary to feel more positive about her future. “I would really encourage everyone living with spinal cord injury to go on a Back Up course,” Mary said. “You won’t regret it.”

Partnering with organisations like Calvert Trust allows Back Up to help hundreds of people with spinal cord injury.

“We could not run our life changing courses without the support of organisations like Calvert Trust. Their teams including activity instructors, accommodation and back office staff ensure that people with spinal cord injury gain maximum benefit and challenge perceptions of what is possible,” Ally, Back Up Courses Manager, said.

Visit our website for more information about our courses or volunteer your time as a Back Up buddy



Coloplast | 8 years of working together

Coloplast | 8 years of working together

Each month of our anniversary year, we are focusing on a theme – an issue, an aspect of our work or a specific group of people with spinal cord injury and their families. In April, we are focusing on our partners and how through working together we can achieve more and make a bigger impact on the lives of people affected by spinal cord injury.

For the past eight years, Coloplast has been Back Up’s headline partner in delivering wheelchair skills training sessions in spinal centres across the country. Coloplast are a leading manufacturer of continence solutions.

Their financial support and staff involvement has been key to the success of the service, which has taught over 4,000 people with spinal cord injury. As a company dedicated to helping people live their lives to the full, their mission and values make them a perfect partner for Back Up.

Sarah Fraser, from Coloplast, said: “We are here to help as many people as possible enjoy a more active, rewarding life. Since the beginning, we’ve put our consumers first and we aim to make life easier for people with intimate healthcare needs, such as bladder and bowel management, which is obviously a huge part of adjusting to life after spinal cord injury.”

As well as working with us on the wheelchair skills training, Coloplast also regularly supports our events, such as the Back Up Ball and Snowdon Push. They’ve added value to Back Up in many different ways.

Sean, Back Up Corporate Manager, said: “It’s a fantastic partnership as both organisations are passionate about helping people with spinal cord injury live life to the full. The long term support we have from Coloplast has enabled us to grow in a sustainable way and we’re looking forward to working together for many years to come.”

You can find more information about the products and services Coloplast provides here

Get your company involved! Find out more on our website


Birmingham Children’s Hospital | Joe’s story

Birmingham Children’s Hospital | Joe’s story

Joe had dreams of becoming a rock star but everything changed four years ago. He a blood clot on his spinal cord, which caused a stroke. He almost died.

After the stroke, Joe spent 15 months in Birmingham Children’s Hospital, a UK paediatric centre offering care to 90,000 children and young people across the country every year. During his rehabilitation, Joe felt depressed and he was struggling to cope.

Joe’s mum, Karen, desperately wanted to help her son. In 2012, she got in touch with Back Up after seeing our BBC Lifeline appeal on TV. She asked about the support we could offer Joe.

One of Back Up’s volunteers visited Joe while he was in hospital. During the visit, they both talked about returning to school and how having a care team could help Joe’s independence.

“Meeting Back Up made me realise that I can still go out and watch gigs,” Joe said. Since meeting Back Up, Joe has attended a Back Up course for children and young people, a wheelchair skills training sessions and has become a member of our youth advisory group. He has also won Young Person of the Year at the annual Back Up Ball.

After being discharged, Joe returned to Birmingham Children’s Hospital as an outpatient. However, this time he was feeling happier and more positive about the future. The staff at the hospital saw the difference Back Up had made to Joe’s life, so they asked us to work with them to organise an event for other children living with spinal cord injury and their families.

As a result, we collaborated with the hospital to deliver a Family Fun Day. During the day, we delivered wheelchair skills training and Back Up young volunteers were encouraged to share their experiences of living with spinal cord injury.

“By meeting others in a similar situation, young people realise they are not alone, they make new friends, build their support networks and have fun. The Family Fun Day couldn’t have happened without the hospital staff who encouraged families to attend, organised the space and welcomed Back Up to run sessions,” Beth, Back Up Under 18s Manager, said.

“The event at Birmingham Children’s Hospital was important to me because they were a big part in helping me get to where I am today. I wanted to give something back,” Joe said.

Hospital staff particularly liked the session delivered by Ben, one of Back Up’s Youth Advisors. Trauma and Rehabilitation Coordinator at Birmingham Children’s Hospital said: “The openness and honesty was appreciated by everyone. They were full of enthusiasm and we were amazed by the way they encouraged even the more reluctant children into taking part.”

The next Family Fun Day at Birmingham Children’s Hospital is planned for Sunday, May 22 2016 and is open to any children or young people with spinal cord injury.

Get in touch with Beth ( for more information or visit our website to find out about our services for children and young people.



“My life turned on its head after my brother’s injury”

“My life turned on its head after my brother’s injury”

We are turning the spotlight on family members of people with spinal cord injury (SCI) and how Back Up supports them. Peter has written about his experiences of having a brother with SCI and hopes that any other siblings reading this may find some comfort, or at least fellow feeling in the words. 

I was 15 years old when my brother broke his neck. His life, my life, our family’s life completely turned on its head in a matter of seconds.

Before my brother’s accident, in terms of our relationship, we were just as you’d expect two teenagers to be: constantly ribbing each other, occasionally combining verbal barbs with whacks around the head. We used to play a game where you’d try to spot certain types of car and whoever was first to notice one got to punch the other. Our headmistress used to own one such car and just as we rounded the corner every day John would always leap into the air to see over the school wall and come crashing down, fist bunched and grinning. But, in spite of the sometimes quite literal bruises, we still walked to school together, laughing and joking.

We were close, our whole family was close. And we were happy. Our holidays were mostly spent travelling or huddled around the dining room table playing cards, board games or discussing the news of the day. Lives aren’t perfect, but ours was pretty golden – the biggest worries were exams and desperately trying to remember if anyone had played the Ace of Hearts.

All of that changed one December when, driving south to see family, we hit a patch of black ice and were pitched from the road. Three of us walked from the car, one was carried out and has not walked again. I find it hard to describe even now the horror of those first few days. Never in my life have I felt more desperate to help someone and yet at the same time so powerless. One moment remains etched on my mind: we were in the ICU (I don’t remember what time of day, it was always dark in there).

At this point John still wasn’t able to breathe on his own, a filthy great tube shoved down his throat served to keep his lungs inflating. Obviously he couldn’t speak, but on this occasion he was trying to. He was mouthing something, but it was hard to make out because of the tube. He was growing increasingly desperate and he started to cry, tears leaking soundlessly down his face.

At that moment I wanted to break and remembering it I still want to weep. He was trying to mouth “water”.

Because of that feeling of powerlessness I suppose my first reaction outside of the hospital was to make sure that everyone else was okay. I hid my tears from my parents as much as I could (I felt they had enough to be going on with) and I tried as much as I could to help out. The brave face was exhausting but at the time, in quite a warped way, I got myself into the mind-set of thinking this was helping – by consciously hiding the feelings I could ignore them and, if I ignored them, I didn’t have to feel their pain and maybe they would go away.

Trust me when I tell you that this didn’t and doesn’t work. All it did was mean that I didn’t let out my feelings in a controlled way: I’d break down, rather than talk things through, and often I’d do it alone. Crying alone is not a pleasant experience, you want somebody to hold you, but my pretense that I was okay meant someone wasn’t always there.

I’ll be honest, the first months after the accident were pretty miserable for me. I was afraid that doing the things I used to enjoy, my rugby, my drama for two equally twisted reasons: first that doing things John used to enjoy would somehow make him feel “more disabled” and second that enjoying myself was somehow a betrayal of everything that John was having to experience – if he was in pain, I had to be in pain too.

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